November 26 is celebrated in our country as Constitution Day. On this day in 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India, adopted the Constitution which came into effect from January 26, 1950. Unfortunately, some people believe that India was a land of justice and fair play in the epic age and it was a much better place to live in than the present Republic India. They strongly recommend Mahabharata as a better guide than the Constitution.
We cannot progress as long as we have such a backward pull in us. Our Constitution is a result of thousands of years of evolutionary progress of humankind since the days of Mahabharata. So, it is quite natural that the spirit of Mahabharata would come into conflict with the Constitution of India which is based on the ideals of equality, liberty, fraternity and justice. As for example, Dronacharya, a great figure of Mahabharata, should have been arrested in Republic India for making Eklavya give his right thumb as tuition fees.
Will the code of Mahabharata promote women to the status of devis? When women of elite families could have been pawned in a game of chance in those days, it can, easily, be understood what was the status of common women especially the Dalit ones at that time.
Eklavya, a bright and humble student, got crippled so that he could never use his education in archery. Our yearning for such an unequal society made a bright student of modern India, Vemula, write in his suicide note, “My birth is my fatal accident”. That we have still been giving Dronacharya award to sports coaches shows we fail to realise the contributions of Ambedkar and the Constitution of India.
To cling to the past saying those were Satya Yuga and to hate the change in modern era as Kali Yuga is to turn a blind eye to evolutionary progress. George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If we want to make progress, we must have the courage to appreciate our progress from the days of agni examination for women and Sati. The problem arises when our minds get tired and pessimistic. In such an unhealthy condition of mind, we start glorifying the past and labelling everything in the present as bad.
It is true that we need always to be critical about the present and should find ways for improvement. But it does not mean that we must go backwards. According to Sri Aurobindo, the cycles of evolution tend always upward, but they are cycles and do not ascend in a straight line. The process therefore gives the impression of a series of ascents and descents, but what is essential in the gains of the evolution is kept or, even if eclipsed for a time, re-emerges in new forms suitable to the new age.
No one can deny that there is a general upward movement in historical evolution from slave societies to feudalism and then to capitalism to socialism and to modern welfare states. But the Holocaust and similar incidents also show that this upward movement does not follow a straight line but it moves in a circular movement of ascent and descent. Indeed, several times history has witnessed a sudden descent when fascist or religious intolerance or greed generated inequality totally clouded humanity. However, after that period of gloomy antithesis, a silver lining of a more sustainable synthesis or re-emergence of a new form took human society to a new ascent while saving the gains of evolution within its fold.
The regressive attitude that hates everything modern as a product of Kali Yuga should be avoided. The need of the hour is to follow Ambedkar’s advice to educate, agitate and organise ourselves. It would help us to clear the cataract of prejudices and translate the ideals of our Constitution – equality, liberty, fraternity and justice – into reality. India needs to support Eklavyas, Ambedkars and Vemulas and stop glorifying Dronacharyas to make our country strong, happy and inclusive.
Significance of November 26